'Visual merchandising isn't understood in India' : Martin M Pegler - Author and lecturer

Professor Martin Pegler, a name considered to be one of the world's leading voices in the field of VM and store design graced POP Asia 2005 to conduct a workshop for the Indian POP players. An established guru in this industry with over fifty years of experience and the publication of over sixty books. While lecturing to capacity crowds around the world, he holds down the position of a professor at the famed Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City.

Professor Pegler was recently been honored by Professionals for the Advancement of Visual Education, with a lifetime achievement award for his many contributions to the field of VM and store design. While his other achievements are far too many to mention, it is important to note that he has also been inducted into the Visual Merchandising/Display Industries' Hall of Fame and is an elected member of the Society of Visual Merchandisers.'s Sonali Krishna met up with the guru himself for futher insights on VM and VM in the Indian retail market.


How crucial is VM going to be with consumer awareness on the rise in developing countries?

Today even in villages and small towns, awareness is quite high with the television reach. There is always going to be a demand for something new and different. Some people will never change but the young want what other people have, which is probably the reason why they leave the farm, leave the village and come into the city. So, the ones in the rural areas will want what's new. Visual merchandising which is the presentation of merchandise effectively is important no matter where it is.

Coming to the retail stores now, what is the flexibility that a retail outlet should offer considering special offers and discounts during different festive seasons round the year in terms of visuals and designs?

Ideally, if I were investing in designing a fixture that would sit on the counter, it should have a removable part where as each festival comes up I throw away Valentine's day and put in Mother's day. I throw Mother's day and put in Christmas. So in other words, the same unit with removable or changeable graphics. So, the manufacturer spends money on something that is worthwhile but it has a longer life because you keep changing it.

Which markets today in the world use VM to its optimum?

Right now, VM is very well used in the States. Any retail that is successful in the US, is doing VM. The US probably does the best promotional merchandising. But, the best VM , the neatest most organized is probably Germany, Austria and Finland. Whether it is fashion, hard goods or anything else. POP is not VM, VM is part of POP. Clothing, household and any fashion accessory are the primary categories which require VM. Women's fashion today as a category uses VM to its best.

Where does India stand today when one talks of VM?

I really saw such few stores that I thought were good. There are stores in India that are controlled by companies outside of India which do a good job, because they bring their concepts of VM in. We saw a couple of stores in Crossroads where they were selling saris. They were expensive but they looked like rags. It was crowded and totally lacked colour sense. So, yellow, orange, green, purple, red… one didn't know where to look. I said give me ten minutes and I will organize your store. The saris and the material is so beautiful and the colours are so vivid, but they are fighting each other. Instead of putting all the yellow and gold together, all the oranges together, all the pinks and red in one stack and building the colours up so when you enter you get a rainbow effect and the the customer can pick out whatever colour they are interested in, colours seem to be in a state of battle.

So, today VM is not understood in India. One of the big problems today is that many visual merchandisers are men. And men don't know what to do with colours. I remember being in Korea and saw the most outrageous outfits on the window and I asked the girl on the counter who picked the outfits and she said the manager. So, I said he has no taste and she replied saying but he's the boss. So, that's what it comes down to.

What percentage of VM actually induces walk-in's?

I would think that, that would be the reason for walk-in's. If you see something in the window or in the front of the store that you find attractive and appealing, that's a reason to walk in. So it is extremely crucial.

"Once more international brands come in, they will make the Indian brands look awful and that will bring about the dramatic change in VM "

So, how come it is non-existent in India?

Because India has been a market place for many years now. Markets and bazaars and people go shopping and they rummage through things. Because this has been the way they have been shopping for years. So, the person who owns the stores figures that he doesn't need anymore. Indian retailers don't understand if customers want to be left alone. They are very aggressive with their customers. The young people who will be going to the stores are not going to put up with this. They have to learn that this is not the old way of doing business.

Tell me about the innovations that you have done in this space.

I am basically a critic. I am not a doer. I'm in the fortunate position of being able to see what's happening around me. So, I make conclusions on the basis of what I see.

Where do you see the future of VM going?

It has to arrive in India, as it does in every other country as it develops a bigger middle class. We were in Moscow in August 2004, and were there before that two years ago. The difference from two years ago to this year was remarkable. And when you look at the young people in Moscow today congregate in their malls, you could be in a mall in the US. You can't tell the difference. Once more and more international brands come in, they will make the Indian brands look awful and that will bring about the dramatic change in VM.

Could you name me a few stores that have really stood out in terms of clever VM?

In New York city, Bergdorf Goodman in 5th avenue, they are the most creative windows we have. Another name would be Barneys, New York in Madison avenue. I don't like them personally but it's a rage in NY.

Harvey Nichols and Liberty in London are excellent in terms of display and VM.

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